Monday, March 8, 2010

Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers

Directed by Poj Arnon
Starring Jintara Poonlarp, Bongkarj Khongmalai, Supakson Chaimongkol, Bunyawan Pongsuwan
Rated R

"How dare you kick my face!"

There's this pearl, see. It's at the bottom of the ocean. It keeps all the fish in line. This one stone-faced karate dude is sworn to keep it safe. But then this other guy - one of those blandly handsome, vaguely evil types - kidnaps the karate dude's kid and uses her for leverage to find out where the pearl is. That bad guy also has a seriously annoying transvestite henchman. The best one always do, don't they?

At first, this turns out to be a bad idea. The kid is actually a karate master, just like her dad, so she kills a lot of dudes first. But they finally get the best of her.

So...I am not sure who works for whom or how anybody gets involved in all of this, but somebody calls the Chai Lai Angels - five female Asian mercenaries/secret agents, ranging in attractiveness from sorta-cute to drop-dead gorgeous. Just like in the landmark 70's television series Charlie's Angels - the clear inspiration here - they girls change into different outfits all the time, and they report to an eccentric Bosley-type boss named, conveniently enough, Boss. That's the set-up. A lot of fighting and clowning and camaraderie ensues.

A very low-budget affair that tries its best to get by on sheer exuberance, Chai Lai Angels features some of the shoddiest wirework this side of a 70's Turkish Superman rip-off. Of particular note is a spectacularly unconvincing fight scene between the Angels - wrapped only in bath towels - VS a gang of black-suited thugs on a mall escalator. In the hands of a competent director, the scene would have been jaw-dropping. Here, it's just eye-rolling. Still, pretty girls! In towels! Doing high kicks!

Despite the almost constant hand to hand combat, the girls do occasionally find time for romance. Rose (Khongmalai)- the bustiest of the Angels - gets engaged to a handsome young banker, and when she gets home, she does a very gratifying underwear dance. So that was pretty awesome.

Unfortunately, he's kidnapped and beaten by a gay black pirate minutes later.

The cross-dresser henchman hires a bunch of comic-booky assassins to kill the Angels once and for all. A rain-soaked battle royale ensues outside of what looks like a mini-golf castle. One oddball inconsistency with this film is that sometimes the girls are bunglers and sometimes - as in this scene - they are possessing of supernatural powers, including Hulk-like strength, and the power of flight.

Despite this surge of superheroine-ism, the girls still end up trapped in a flimsy white cage. Luckily, the fifth angel shows up in a tank.


The bad guys - of which there seems to be an endless supply - finally locate the sacred pearl-of-whatever on some deserted island. And they would have gotten away with it, too (whatever it is they were planning on getting away with; I am not sure that was ever explained fully), but then the Chai Lai Angels pop up out of nowhere to engage in the oft hoped for but rarely witness Epic Bikini Battle.

And then, for whatever reason, Rose performs a disco number inside a giant plastic ball.

A bunch of stuff happens after that, too. Most of it involves chicks and guns.

While it is never great, and while it occasionally lapses into full-retard mode, Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers is consistently entertaining, and maintains a goofy, ragged charm.

Despite the frequent bouts of graphic violence, the tone, for the most part, is light and fluffy; the action dips into ice-cold Tarantino territory for part of the climax - a guns blazing, kill-everybody free-for-all - but then the cross-eyed double-agent shows up again, and who can stay mad when there's a cross eyed double agent shooting up the joint? A bit of nudity and a less insane dubbing job would have been nice, but still, a fun, frothy movie.

PS: the film ends with a five-minute fire-fight that's supposed to be footage from the planned sequel, Chai Lai Angels Go to Battle. Sadly, said sequel has yet to emerge.

- Ken McIntyre

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